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It’s Not Our ‘Christian Responsibility’ to Be Politically Engaged

what does the bible say about politics

Today is election day and it’s worth considering: what does the Bible say about politics? The midterm elections are happening as I type, after weeks of acrimony and turmoil. In about 14 hours it will all be over, thankfully. Then we can begin treating each other badly in anticipation of the 2020 election.

Every election cycle, I see the words repeated. They are spoken, typed on Facebook, and broadcast on Twitter. It has become a part of Christian culture, like the words “amen” and “after-church potluck.”

“It’s our Christian responsibility.”
“This election is crucial. It’s our Christian responsibility to vote.”
“The future of our nation is at stake. It is our Christian responsibility to be politically engaged.”
“The fate of the church is at stake. It is our Christian responsibility to elect leaders who will defend it.”

What Does the Bible Say About Politics?

But is it really our “Christian responsibility?” Or is that simply a product of cultural Christianity instead of biblical discipleship? (And with those two questions, I have just touched the third rail of U.S. evangelicalism. To question that core belief can get you excommunicated from some churches and cause many to call into question your very salvation. I know, because I would have been outraged by those questions not that long ago.)

But can we lay aside what we have always been told for just a moment to ask the questions? What can it hurt to check to make sure that what we believe and live is actually true to the Word of God?

So, allow me a moment to give you the following arguments against a Christ-follower’s political involvement:

1) There is no Scriptural basis for it.

Jesus stepped onto a first-century scene that was a political incubator. The Jewish nation was living under an oppressive Roman government that had stripped them of their rights and was taxing them into poverty. They were no longer allowed to practice some of the Torah commanded practices, and the people wanted political change.

In fact, as they anticipated the coming Messiah, they were looking for a political one. They believed the Messiah would enter Jerusalem, establish an earthly rule, and place Israel at the top of the pecking order. Over time, many who had heard Jesus’ teaching and had seen his miracles believed that He was that Messiah, which explains their jubilation when He entered the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. They believed He was getting ready to establish the new kingdom. And He was. But it was not the kingdom they expected. So, when He died five days later, most of His followers walked away.

We know now that Jesus did not come to be a political savior and establish an earthly kingdom. He came to establish a spiritual and Eternal Kingdom. And He had told them that repeatedly through His teaching. But they were so blinded by their own opinions of what they needed that they could not see what they really needed.

Twice we see religious leaders asking Jesus politically charged questions. But maybe you missed those:

a) Should we pay taxes to Caesar? There was a political movement afoot in which some Jews wanted to arise and refuse to pay taxes to the Roman government. After all, they were corrupt, wicked and using the funds to oppress the people paying them. They wanted that movement to gain enough critical mass so that the people would rise up as one and refuse to pay. The endorsement of this popular teaching would go a long way in achieving that critical mass.

But notice Jesus’ response: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s.” In essence, He told them to give to the temporary government the temporary things it asks for. But give to God the eternal things that really matter. They wanted political answers, but He used the opportunity to turn the question around to address the spiritual issue that would really make a difference.

b) Should we stone this woman? You have heard it countless times. The story of the woman caught in adultery, dragged into public with angry men holding stones. And they ask Jesus the question.